Regression to the mean

Last week, Reed Hastings predicted the future.  He suggested that elected school boards all regress to the mean and that it’s impossible to create continuity of leadership.
Denver had the most aggressive reform agenda of any district led by an elected board until yesterday when they began the regression to the mean.  It happened to Jim Sweeny in Sacramento, Alan Bersin in San Diego, and now Tom Boasberg in Denver.  It certainly doesn’t help Colorado’s RttT agenda.
It was not a great week for Democrats but it’s hard to know yet what it means for education.  It is no accident that Obama was in Wisconsin talking about education the day after elections. Newly elected Gov Christie visited a charter school in Newark.  The election was a boost for charters in NJ (where all the candidates jumped on the charter bus).  Tom Carroll suggests it will be interesting watching Christie and Booker collaborate on the charter agenda. EduFlack speculates on the tricky RttT handoff.
The White House could use a win but I don’t think ESEA reauthorization got any easier.   A few more congressional democrats are nervous this week about choice and accountability.
This administration has taken a tougher stance on basic union issues than any in modern times.  While it’s true that ARRA saved education jobs, upcoming grant programs will cause big dislocations and reforms in how teachers are evaluated and compensated.  Let’s hope we don’t see a regression to the mean.

Tom - Speaking Engagements

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Marc Dean Millot
12/8/2009

The more important point is that the leadership and dynamism of virtually all organizations regress to the mean. In most cases, the faster they transition from the entrepreneur on the edge to a bureacracy, the more likely they will freeze up. Few organizations of any size manage to maintain "the way" of the founder, and those that do are in constant jeopardy.
How does this happen? At some point what began as support activities become larger and more important than the reason the organization was started. Once the founder is gone, the sheer weight of infrastructure overwhelms whoever remains with a commitment to mission.
(In this respect, Mao's "Cultural Revolution" was good management.)
To my mind that's one of many, many arguments why we ought to have a system of support owned by individual independent charter schools, rather than a bureacracy of support (i.e., Charter Management Organization) DIRECTING schools it owns. Turn the CMO on its head (Charter Support Organization) and you have an interesting business/education model.

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